In Planet Earth's wide, wild and wondrous théâtre de l'absurde, America's quixotic, twisted 'litigation mania'-driven Legal System remains king.
Weeks ago, a Federal Judge
(...how did this get to be a Federal case?!
) by the name of Frederic Block
ruled that Jerry Wolkoff
, the owner / developer of 5Pointz
, a derelict building, abandoned many years ago in Queens, New York
would pay a total of $6,700,00.00
dollars in recompensatory awards to 21
individual graffiti artists
- for painting over their graffiti while making preparations to demolish his building. See our earlier story : "This Graffiti bit's done got outta' hand" < link >
On the one hand, we should have seen this travesty of justice coming down the pipeline. First there were legal rulings which guaranteed graffiti artists copyright protection for their works. This opened the courtroom floodgates for graffiti artists to demand of film makers, TV producers and advertsing executives compensation for using their works, or even for having their works incidentally visible in the background - regardless of those works' other illegal underpinnings in vandalism. But this recent 5Pointz award boggles the mind, numbs the senses and pushes the limits of the absurd.
To review, the 5Pointz building had been abandoned for years, and owner / developer Jerry Wolkoff made a verbal agreement with a group of graffiti artists which would allow them to use the facility free of charge to create what the graffiti artists would label the 'world's largest open-air aerosol museum' - an act of generosity that would eventually blow back in his face big-time... (Notice the obvious attempt at 'gentrification' - no longer any reference to 'vandalism', these thrown-up pieces are now part of an 'aerosol museum'... Oh, dear boys, how refined you have become...)
While some of the artists didn't object to their art 'going down with the building" (at least until the lawyers got involved) they did object to the owner's "arrogance". According to the graffiti artists, Wolkoff had the 'arrogance' to paint over the graffiti a year prior to demolishing the building. This 'arrogance' must have weighed heavily in Judge Block's "guilty-as-charged' ruling, and his insistence at awarding the maximum allowable US150,000 to the artists for each of their pieces he deemed worthy of being called 'art'. It wouldn't be out of place here to remind the judge of the US Constitution and specific rights of property owners... Just sayin'...
This frankly kafkaesque
ruling is setting a legal precedent that will cause homeowners, businesses, municipal governments, state governments, national government entities like the National Park Service, curators of National monuments, and others, grievous legal headaches and payouts every time they wash graffiti off their walls. And the unintended consequences? Everyone and his kid brother will now want to go out and become a graffiti "artist", in hopes of landing that one big payoff.... Every adolescent arrested for graffiti vandalism will be suing for financial gains immediately his graffiti is eradicated. Ahennnh...
(For further reading, see a very well-written piece in The Hamilton Spectator
< link >
Graphic excerpts above are from Internet sources, and are, under current legal precedents and prevailing interpretations
considered 'Fair Use' under Copyright Law. Copyright of all original artwork resides exclusively with the artists.